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Iran believes India can help de-escalate tensions. Will it?

Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's desk)
Filed on January 16, 2020 | Last updated on January 16, 2020 at 06.44 am
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks at a global conference in New Delhi, India.- AP

One thing is clear as crystal - nobody within the region or outside it wants the matter to escalate any further than it already has.

In widely reported remarks made by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in India, the top diplomat of the West Asian nation said yesterday that he thinks heavyweight India should weigh in on the ongoing US-Iran tensions. Could it really? Should it really? Would it really? Zarif was speaking at the annual Raisina Dialogue conference in New Delhi, where he was one of the invitees this year. The Iranian minister also met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and pictures of their handshake have been released to make the right diplomatic noises. But how feasible is it for India - or, for that matter, Pakistan or even China - to throw their hat into the ring when they have their own issues at stake with both the warring parties?

One thing is clear as crystal - nobody within the region or outside it wants the matter to escalate any further than it already has. Geopolitical tensions have a way of hurting the bystanders where it hurts the most - oil price spikes, trade losses, stunted economic growth and more. So, all nations, including regional majors Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have asked for both parties to step back from the brink and maintain peace and calm. Iranian leaders needed to demonstrate to their in-house audience that they were going to retaliate, and so they fired a dozen or so missiles into an Iraqi airbase which the US claims didn't do any material damage. That Iran also ended up messing it up by mistakenly bringing down a planeload of people, harming innocent Iranians and Iranian-Canadians, is extremely unfortunate.

But with both the US and Iran now stating that they don't want to take this brinkmanship any further, it would probably be futile if not foolhardy for a third country to persuade either of them. Additionally, Iran must give up its adventurism in the region, stop backing trouble in the neighbourhood, honour the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal and renegotiate the Trump deal which must necessarily have the regional powers' active consent. That will be a win-win for everyone.


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